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Project Type: Group Project

My Role: Research, Product Design
Time: May, 2021

A multifunctional eye-friendly kids toy that combines an online resource platform and offline game experience.


With kid toy market brimming with numerous toy designs for kids of different ages, parents are encouraged to purchase an increasing amount of toys for their children. Many parents, however, are still facing the problem of not being able to purchase the most satisfying kid toys, which indicates that there are huge demands for better kids toys. Research shows that kids between 3-5 spend around 3 hours per day playing with toys. They are always desiring new interactions to keep themselves occupied. It results in a growing number of depression among these toddlers.

Based on this background information, we conducted a questionnaire that aimed to collect the doubts and needs of major consumers in the preschool children’s toy market. We concluded a pain point that kids cannot connect/play with their playmates during quarantine periods and other times when they are physically departed. 

Persona 1.0 for Parent.png

Persona 1.0 for Parent

Persona 1.0 for Kid.png

Persona 1.0 for Kid

However, since the pandemic situation is getting better, the vaccine for the covid has been invented and the government is lifting the stay-at-home order, which allows more outdoor activities for kids. They get to hang out with their playmates more. Then, how to keep them connected when they’re physically departed doesn’t seem like a core problem now.

Therefore, we conducted second round research. From our interview with a few parents and children, we learned that children around the age of 2 to 5 are very interested in playing with electronic devices like mobile phones and/or iPads. We also conducted second round questionnaire to find out parents’ worries and desire about their kids and toys.


Through market research, we found that two of the successful competitors in the kids toy market, LEGO and Tinkamo, share the similar characteristics that they are educational, kid-friendly, and multi-use with more possibilities and potential to transform into new toys, while LEGO keeps updating new themes and Tinkamo has more high-tech functions.


Tinkamo and LEGO

Persona 2.0 for Parent.png

Persona 2.0 for Parent

Persona 2.0 for Kid.png

Persona 2.0 for Kid

On the basis of these information, we finally came to a conclusion. What parents want in toys are 1) educational, 2) healthy, especially eye-friendly, and 3) multiuse; what kids like are 1) fun and new experiences, 2) interactive devices, and 3) related to popular cartoon characters. Then, we reached the pain point that parents are struggling to find a screen-less phone/iPad substitution that is fun and educational enough for their kids. This shows that there is an untapped marketplace where a screen-less toy that has smart capabilities and is educational is highly desired.

Introducing K!NNECTED

Based on what we’ve researched, we came up with this product: K!NNECTED

Physical Components:
  • The Game Board:

    • Easily configurable to have new games via a 3×3 board layout

    • Made out of wood, which is high quality, healthy, and safe to use

    • Hardware is not easily reached and cables are out of the way

    • Configurable RGB lighting and sound controls to have more feedback

  • The Cube:

    • Color Coded and syncs up with board easily (no hassle)

    • Meant for education, because you group cubes to things on the board

    • Easily interchangeable for different shapes that fit (inexpensive)

    • Uses RFID Tags that will have different ways to register sides, giving game developers 3D game making possibilities

    • Made of smooth rubber and acrylic, which is very durable and safe

  • Interior Circuit:

    • The first layer: Copper coil around each notch to cut off signals between different RFID readers

    • The second layer: RFID readers under each notch to read RFID tags within the cubes and transfer information to the processor

    • The third layer: Arduino board to receive, process and emit information; LED rings under each notch to receive signals from the processor and light up; and soundbox to receive signals from the processor and make sound


Circuit of the Third Layer


3D Model for the Inner Circuit

  • 3D Detail Breakdown Clip:

Online Component (K!NNECTED App):

Parents can download K!NNECTED app to their phone from the online app store. For parents, this app is used for pairing with the game board and installing new games. For game developers, this app also allows them to upload new games for K!NNECTED.



For the first round prototype, we used recycle cardboard to mimic the game board and the cubes. We cut out 9 holes on the board that can put the cubes in. We also made brackets to hold the cubes to make them stand higher above the cover. The board is made to be high enough to contain all of the accessory parts and circuits.

Laser Cut:

Then we used laser cut to make the second round prototype. After designing the laser cut blueprint on Adobe Illustrator, we used white acrylic board for the cube and wooden board for the game board to build the prototype. However, we discovered that the material for the cube was too opaque to see the light inside the cube. Also, since we originally intended to use copper tape to stick the small LEDs on the cube, and through the copper tape to conduct electricity so that the LEDs would be turned on, we found that this installation was not very aesthetically pleasing. So later, we changed to use translucent acrylic board as the material for the cube. 


On the laser cut game board, there was our product name engraved at the top of the board. We also engraved our logo “K!” on the transparent side of the cube. To increase the usability, we changed the small LEDs to several cube LEDs with humidity sensor, so that they can light up as soon as the sensor senses humidity. 


For prototype, we designed two games: one is the Story Game, and another one is Little DJ.

The Story Game is mainly used to tell stories to kids. Kids can push the plots of the stories by placing the cubes in the designated notches. In the process of storytelling, one of the rows of notches is specifically used to trigger sound effects related to the story. If kids put the cubes into these notches, they can hear different sound effects, such as puppy barking, piggy oinking, etc.

Little DJ is a music game inspired by the mobile game Super Pads. In this game, just like electronic instruments, each notch has different sound effects, some are rhythm sounds, some are drum beats, and some are melodies. Children can create different music by placing the cubes randomly.

User Testing

For Physical Prototype:

Thanks to my teammates, Jamie and Katie, we managed to run the user test with Professor Qian’s twin daughters in Hangzhou. While the two girls were playing with our prototype, we observed that they were very attracted to the glowing game board and the small cubes. They kept placing the cubes into the notches to set off the lighting effect. However, due to time constraints, we did not make a real game with the processor and we have not been able to test the feasibility of the game yet.

For Games:

So, after a few days, we tested the story game with Katie’s cousin by video call. One of us told her the story and the other played sound effects during the process. The girl looked very engaged and she enjoyed the interaction.

Further Development

Since we want to build an iPad-like medium that hosts a wide variety of game, our further development would mainly focus on adding more features and functions to the game board according to the needs of kids, parents and also game developers. We also considered adding more sensory involvement, full body interaction, and increasing the size of the board. Moreover, we would improve the interfaces and functions of the K!NNECTED app to enhance the user-friendliness.

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